Quotation marks

The following guidelines are taken from Chicago Manual of Style only. (CMS 16 | CMS 17)

Skip to: Capitalization of quote | Punctuation before quote | Quotes within quotes | Ellipses | Punctuation after quote | Thought questions | Single words | Block quotations | Dialogue | Multiple paragraph quotations | Epigraphs |

Capitalize first word of quote or no?

Generally, if the quote would be a standalone sentence, capitalize the first word. But if it depends on the surrounding sentence for syntax, don’t capitalize it. See below for examples.

When quoting written material, you may change initial capital to lowercase or vice versa. (13.13–14 | 13.18–19)

Capitalization decisions also apply to block quotes. (13.15 | 13.20)

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Comma, colon, or nothing before quote?

Comma

after said, asked, explains, and similar verbs. (13.18, 6.9 | 13.14, 6.9)

She replied, “You are wonderful.”

“You are wonderful,” she replied.

Colon

after a formal introductory word such as thus or follows (13.17 | 13.16) or where syntax calls for it. (13.11 | 13.11)

Dunham described it as follows: “The first step . . .”

Her soft-spoken words would later become their rally cry: “We need support, not sports.”

No punctuation needed

when the syntax doesn’t call for it. (13.11, 13.14, 6.9 | 13.11, 13.19, 6.9)

She coached her employees to “make work meaningful and fun.”

But  She repeatedly reminded her employees, “Make work meaningful and fun.”

Making work “meaningful and fun” was important to their manager.

Make sure to integrate proper verb tense and pronouns. (13.12 | 13.12) In rare circumstances, you can substitute a bracketed verb or pronoun to make it agree.

“That” before quote

She often reiterated that “work should stay at work.”

He feels that “cooking is too much of a pain.”

He felt that cooking was “too much of a pain.”

Make sure “that” is actually necessary. After a word like said, replied, explained, or a similar verb, it may not be needed.

Dunham stated that “the options for balancing work and home life are limited.”

(Okay in the right context.)

Dunham stated, “The options for balancing work and home life are limited.”

(Probably better. Remember, it is okay to change an initial capital or lowercase letter of a printed quote. 13.13–14 | 13.18–19)

No quotation marks at all

if you’re just paraphrasing a quote. (13.43 | 13.45)

She often reiterated that work should not be taken home.

Proverbs, maxims, mottoes, etc.

For commas, use rules for appositives. Capitalize if it would normally be capitalized on its own. (6.51, 8.197 | 6.41, 7.62)

The motto “Heal the sick” seemed to have been forgotten.

The organization’s motto, “Heal the sick,” seemed to have been forgotten.

The line “Welcome to the new age” is found in the song “Radioactive.”

The song’s repeated lyric, “Welcome to the new age,” provides a sardonic greeting for the apocalyptic scene described.

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Quotes within quotes

Use single quotes. (13.28 | 13.30)

She explained, “Work should stay at work. Your family would say, ‘Get off your phone and be with us when you’re home!’”

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Ellipses

(13.48–56 | 13.50–58)

Three dots . . . for information removed midsentence. Use nonbreaking spaces between each dot, with a regular space before and after the ellipsis.

Four dots. . . . This shows the beginning or end of a sentence was removed. Actually a period with an ellipsis. A grammatically complete sentence should follow, so start it with a capital letter. Nonbreaking spaces between dots with a regular space after.

No ellipses at beginning or end of quote, even if the beginning or end of the sentence was removed, unless it’s grammatically incomplete. You may adjust capitalization of the first letter to fit the syntax. (13.50, 13.53 | 13.52, 13.55)

Can you use punctuation before a 3 dot ellipsis? . . . Yes, if it helps readability, including commas. “They ate apples, . . . peaches, and pears.”

See below for ellipses within block quotations to denote omitted paragraphs.

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Punctuation inside or outside quotes?

(6.10, 6.70, 6.74, 6.118 | 6.10, 6.70, 6.74, 6.124)

Periods and commas always go within the quotation marks.

She texted, “I’m done with this.”

“I’m done with this,” she texted.

But question marks and exclamation marks should only be within the quotation marks IF they are part of the quote. But only one punctuation mark is needed, whether it comes before or after the quote. (Unless the punctuation is part of the title of a work, not covered here, see 6.119 | 6.125.)

What did she mean when she texted, “I’m done with this”?

What do you mean by “I’m done with this”?

I can’t believe she texted, “I’m done with this”!

He replied, “Can we talk?”

Why did you ask, “Can we talk?”

I asked, “Why did you text, ‘Can we talk?’”

“Can we talk?” he asked.

She screamed, “Get out!”

“Get out!” she screamed.

In certain instances, you may include both an exclamation and question mark if they both seem essential. (6.120 | 6.126)

Who screamed, “Get out!”?  or
Who screamed, “Get out”?

A colon or semicolon should only be within the quotation marks IF it is part of the quote. (6.10 | 6.10)

The following cities start with “the”: The Dalles, The Hague, and The Colony.

I read “The Theory of Quantum Computation”; now I have more questions than before.

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Thought questions

No quotes needed. (6.52, 6.67, 13.41 | 6.69, 13.43)

He thought to himself, what am I doing?

What, they all wondered, should they do?

What should we do? they all wondered. (6.67 | 6.69)

The question of the moment was, who could have done this?

If it’s long or has internal punctuation, start it with a capital letter.

The community was now thinking, How can we support a mayor who lies, cheats, and steals?

You can also phrase it as an indirect question.

He thought about what he was doing.

They were all wondering what they should do.

The community was now wondering how they could support a mayor who lies, cheats and steals.

But fully formed thought dialogue or internal dialogue can be placed in quotes or not, depending on author preference. (13.41, 6.67 | 13.43, 6.69)

She thought carefully about what she was doing. “What will we accomplish?” she asked herself, “and will it cause more good than harm?”

But what will we accomplish? she asked herself. (6.67 | 6.69)

I thought carefully about my options. What will we accomplish? Will it cause more good than harm? Will we be hated or celebrated?

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Single words, not part of dialogue

No quotes needed for words such as yes, no, who, what, when, where, and why, if not part of dialogue. Occasionally the context calls for italics for clarity. (13.38 | 13.40)

He always says no.

I am not going to explain why.

All you have to do is say yes.

Your no answer is not acceptable.

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Block quotations

Length and formatting

Chicago recommends about 100 words, or 6–8 lines of regular manuscript text, should be set off as a block quotation, but check with your publisher for their rule. Multiple paragraphs are also best set as block quotes. (The following examples are shortened.) (13.10 | 13.10)

No quotation marks for block quotations. (13.29 | 13.31)

Follow the same capitalization decisions you would with regular quotes. (13.15 | 13.19)

Indent block quotations from the left and sometimes from the right, and set in a smaller type or different font—decisions made by the publisher. (13.9 |13.9)

Punctuation before quote

These first three examples are the most common ways of introducing a block quotation. In the first example, CMS approves using a period instead of a colon to introduce a block quotation, but says to apply it consistently in appropriate situations (second example). The third example would still require a colon because of “as follows.” (13.17, 13.19 | 13.16–17)

Colon most common.

In her article, Emerson explains how to tackle a common journaling problem:

You don’t have to explain the background of every story. Start with the latest news. Pretend you are talking to your best friend who has been through all this with you, and you are giving her or him the latest scoop. Then, if you have time and feel like it, you can add additional background information.

Period OK if applied consistently where appropriate.

In her article, Emerson explains how to tackle a common journaling problem.

You don’t have to explain the background of every story. Start with the latest news.

Colon necessary here because of “as follows.”

In her article, Emerson explains as follows:

You don’t have to explain the background of every story. Start with the latest news.

If the syntax calls for it, other constructions are allowed as well. (See 13.15, 13.21 | 13.20, 13.23.) As with all quotes, the initial capital or lowercase letter can be changed to suit syntax.

Emerson explains you should write as if you are

talking to your best friend who has been through all this with you, and you are giving her or him the latest scoop. Then, if you have time and feel like it, you can add additional background information.

Emerson explains, summarizing her instructions,

Pretend you are talking to your best friend who has been through all this with you, and you are giving her or him the latest scoop. Then, if you have time and feel like it, you can add additional background information.

Emerson explains, “You don’t have to explain the background of every story.” She continues:

Start with the latest news. Pretend you are talking to your best friend who has been through all this with you, and you are giving her or him the latest scoop. Then, if you have time and feel like it, you can add additional background information.

Formatting after quote

The next line after the block quotation should be flush left if it continues the paragraph. But indent if it starts a new paragraph. (13.22 | 13.24)

Quotes within a block quote

Since there are no quotes around block quotations, a quotation within it gets full quotation marks. (13.29 | 13.31)

Emerson offers a reminder that a journal is not an autobiography.

You might be tempted to start with, “My name is so-and-so, I live in this place, I like these things.” That’s an okay way to start if you don’t know what to write. But you’ll probably have more fun with it if you tell a specific story that happened today or this week.

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Dialogue

New paragraph when the speaker changes. (13.37 | 13.39)

“What are you up to?”

“Nothing. How about you?”

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Multiple-paragraph quotations

Usually set off as block quotations.

If a multiple-paragraph quotation can’t be set off as a block quotation, use a quote at the beginning of each paragraph, but a closing quote only at the end of the final paragraph. Same with dialogue where one speaker talks for multiple paragraphs in a row. (13.30 | 13.32)

If a letter is published in its entirety, and not done as a block quote, use an open quote before the first line and before each paragraph, but a closing quote only at the end, after the signature. (13.33 | 13.35)

If you omit whole or partial paragraphs in the middle of a block quotation, use four dots (or three dots if the omission creates a grammatically incomplete sentence). If the beginning of the following paragraph is omitted, use three dots at the beginning of that paragraph, and indent it. But don’t put ellipses at the beginning or end of the quote. This situation should only occur in a block quotation, so quotation marks would not surround it. (13.54 | 13.56)

A 1922 Chamber of Commerce newsletter stated:

          Headed by President N. N. Dalton . . .

          . . . The tour . . . extended to all parts of the plant. . . .

          There are four million cubic feet of storage space in the plant. . . .

          . . . The storage capacity is thirty million pounds. . . .

          Located on the top of the building is a great ball representing a ball of “ice,” illuminated by . . . lights. . . . The ball is fifteen feet in diameter . . . covered with silver Florentine glass.

But if you are not able to set a multiple-paragraph quote as a block quotation, see 13.30 | 13.32—a quotation mark would in that case be used at the beginning of each new paragraph, but at the end of only the final paragraph.

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Epigraphs

No quotation marks. Usually get a separate typographic treatment, such as a smaller font, indented from both sides, and/or italics. Treatment of source varies (em dash, indent, flush right, etc.), but keep treatment consistent within one book. (13.34 | 13.36)

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Source: CMS 16 | CMS 17

Skipped: 13.20, 21, poetry, 13.31. 6.53 about parens and brackets, 13.39 faltering speech